German doctors warn of surge in common colds

A woman sneezes into a tissue. Doctors in Germany say there's an increase in people getting common colds and other respiratory infections.
A woman sneezes into a tissue. Doctors in Germany say there's an increase in people getting common colds and other respiratory infections. Photo: picture alliance / Christina Sabrowsky/dpa | Christina Sabrowsky
German health experts say there's a sharp rise in people - especially children - picking up infections like common colds and other respiratory illnesses due to lower levels of social contact during the Covid lockdowns.

As well as being linked to the colder weather, the head of the German GP Association (Deutscher Hausärzteverband) said it is partly down to the population having weaker immunity to viruses after restricting social contact during the Covid shutdown. 

“This is also due to the fact that people had hardly any contact with various viruses for one and a half years because of the Corona restrictions,” chairman Ulrich Weigeldt told the Passauer Neue Presse on Thursday.

“To that extent, their immune system is not well trained against many viruses that we normally cope with well. As a result, colds are more prevalent. So the lockdowns have not only brought advantages.”

Weigeldt said Germany is seeing more infectious diseases spreading among children in particular, because they have had less exposure to viruses. 

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He said teachers and adults are often passing viruses on to children. Weigeldt is therefore in favour of “compulsory vaccination for such professional groups”.

Getting rid of compulsory face masks in schools has emerged as a contentious topic in Germany. Some states are allowing pupils to ditch their masks, while others are keeping the rule. 

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Weigeldt spoke out in favour of getting rid of compulsory face masks in schools – at least for younger children. Instead, he says adults need to take responsibility – and that’s why he is advocating for compulsory vaccinations for teaching staff, as well as employees in other sensitive occupational groups, such as nursing.

The German government, however, maintains that it does not plan any compulsory vaccinations. 

Andreas Gassen, head of the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), also pleaded for states to get rid of compulsory masks in schools.

The chairman of the KBV told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND): “From my point of view, it is justifiable to do without masks in schools.”

Gassen said there were already regular Covid tests in schools – and added that children needed to boost their immune system by getting more exposure to viruses. 

“Due to the long periods of lockdown, social distancing and mask-wearing, children’s immune systems are now so untrained that they fall ill with viruses that previously did not affect them,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Education and Science Union (GEW) called for uniform rules nationwide on the issue of Covid protection in schools ahead of the meeting of education ministers on Thursday and Friday.

“The GEW appeals to the Conference of Education Ministers to agree on a common line on the issue of mandatory masks,” GEW leader Maike Finnern told RND. “We want schools to stay open during the cold season, that will not work without hygiene measures and concepts.”

READ ALSO: Germany doesn’t need a ‘Covid exit strategy like UK’, says Health Minister

Vocabulary 

Common cold – (die) Erkältung

Infectious diseases – (die) Infektionskrankheiten

Rise – (der) Anstieg 

Untrained – untrainiert

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.


Member comments

  1. My son started complaining of a sore throat 3 days ago, then a runny nose, now a slight cough. I’ve tested him three mornings in a row for COVID with negative results, but I’m still nervous. Hard to remember a time when other viruses were prevalent.

  2. Yes, my 2yo brought back a cold from Kindergarten that has knocked me sideways with Bronchitis for the past month – sucks!

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